TALLAHASSEE - The popularity of smoking may not be what it once was, but its prevalence is concerning enough to Florida legislators that a bill has been introduced to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
If passed, Florida would be the sixth state to increase the legal smoking age.
Florida Sen. David Simmons believes that increasing the age limit by just a few years will significantly decrease the number of young smokers.
“Between the ages of 18 and 21 is when most individuals become addicted to tobacco products, particularly smoking,” Simmons said.
Simmons also argues that by increasing the age limit and thereby reducing the number of smokers, everyone would see the cost of health care decrease.
Opponents of the bill argue that an 18-year-old can vote, get married and serve in the military, so they should be able to decide if they want to smoke or not.
Orlando resident Jame Fahye, 24, started smoking as a teenager and said he supports increasing the legal smoking age to 21.
“There are things out there that we shouldn’t do,” he said. “So, you know, putting a law in place like that, I think that’s a good idea.”
Simmons argues that regulating tobacco products is no different than restricting drinking and driving or texting and driving.
“There’s some common sense to this, and when you look at it in the proper perspective, it’s not the kind of thing that is so dramatic,” he said. “Other states have already done it.”
Under Simmons’ proposal, a first offender would be sentenced to 20 hours of community service, and 40 hours for a second offense happening within a year.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Florida House of Representatives.
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